How to Wash a Comforter So It's Fresh and Clean

Plus, some tips to keep in mind when washing a delicate down comforter.

A rolled duvet and pillow lie on a dresser against the background of a blurred window. Household.
Photo: Olga Nikiforova/Getty Images

Snuggling under a warm, fluffy comforter is a perfect way to relax—unless you're prone to sleep hot, in which case a cooling blanket is probably more appropriate. The thick layer of insulation—whether down or a synthetic material—traps the warmth of your body for a comfortable night's sleep. Eventually, the comforter is going to need cleaning. Take a minute to look for the care tag. It will give you information about the fiber content and how to clean the comforter. Most comforters or duvet inserts can be washed at home, but some have outer coverings that require dry cleaning. If the comforter is washable, follow the steps below to wash the comforter at home or at your local laundromat. Here's how to wash a comforter so you can sleep soundly tonight under clean and cozy bedding.

How Often to Wash a Comforter

Many down and down alternative comforters have removable covers that can be washed to remove body soil and stains every time you change the sheets. A thick comforter without a removable cover should be wa shed at least seasonally and more often if you allow pets on the bed, or if someone in the household has been sick. Always wash a comforter before storing it for the off-season.

Can You Wash Your Comforter at Home?

Down-filled comforters and comforters filled with synthetic down-alternative are easy to clean and dry at home, especially if you have a spacious washing machine. If you don't have a large-capacity washer, head to your local laundromat. A smaller household washer could compress and distort the filler, says Allen Rathey, president of Housekeeping Channel. You can wash a comforter by hand in the bathtub, but the comforter will become very heavy and can take several days to dry. Cleaning it in a washing machine is easy, and you'll save money by skipping the dry cleaner.

What You'll Need

For a Down-Alternative Comforter:

  • Enzyme-based stain remover
  • Heavy-duty detergent
  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Wool dryer balls
  • Large capacity front-loading washer or top-loading washer without a center agitator
  • Automatic dryer, clothesline, or drying rack

For a Down Comforter:

  • Gentle detergent or down wash
  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Large capacity washer
  • Automatic dryer or drying rack
  • Wool dryer balls

Remove Stains

Just as you would with any dirty laundry, pretreat stains before washing the comforter—this also goes for your favorite quilts by the way. Pretreating allows the stain remover to begin breaking down the stains and loosening them from the fibers, so that the wash water can flush them away.

  1. Spread the comforter out on the bed or a large, clean table or counter so you can easily see any stains.
  2. Place a dab of an enzyme-based stain remover or heavy-duty detergent on each stained area.
  3. Use a soft-bristled brush to work the stain remover into the fabric.
  4. Turn the comforter over and repeat the process on the other side.
  5. Allow the stain remover to work for at least 15 minutes (or as long as directed on the label) before washing the comforter, following the steps below.

How to Wash a Down-Alternative Comforter

  1. Set the wash cycle. After pretreating the stains, select the gentle cycle and cold or warm water setting on the washer. If you do not have a large capacity washer, use one at the local laundromat to prevent overloading your washer. The comforter needs room to move through the water in the washer in order to get clean.
  2. Add detergent. Add your regular detergent to the drum or distribution drawer of the washer. Use no more than 2 teaspoons of a high-efficiency detergent or one laundry detergent pod. Excess suds and detergent residue are difficult to remove from the comforter's filling.
  3. Add vinegar. Pour 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar into the fabric softener distribution drawer or add it during the final rinse to help remove any detergent residue.
  4. Load in the comforter. Wash it alone to prevent excessive wrinkling and lint from other fabrics. After the washer cycle is complete, remove the comforter and give it a good shake to help remove wrinkles.
  5. Dry the comforter. Place the comforter in an automatic dryer with a few wool dryer balls. The dryer balls will help fluff the interior filling. Dry the comforter on medium-low heat. You can also hang the comforter from a clothesline or drape it over a drying rack. If air-drying, shift and fluff the comforter every few hours to help redistribute the filling fibers. Do not place the comforter back on the bed or store it until it is fully dry.

How to Wash a Down Comforter

The down or feathers in a comforter are a bit more temperamental than synthetic poly-fill. Always use a gentle detergent or down wash to prevent stripping the natural oils from the feathers. Start by pretreating any stains, following the steps outlined above.

  1. Set the wash cycle. Select the gentle cycle and cold water setting on a large capacity washer.
  2. Add detergent. Add just 2 teaspoons of down wash to the washer drum or detergent drawer. Do not use any type of fabric softener. It can damage the feathers.
  3. Load the comforter. Wash the comforter by itself to prevent excessive wrinkling or lint transfer.
  4. Rinse. When the cycle is complete, add a second rinse cycle to help ensure that all of the detergent residue is removed from the down. Remove the comforter from the washer and give it a good shake.
  5. Dry the comforter. Place the comforter in an automatic dryer with several wool dryer balls. Dry on low heat and remove it from the dryer every 15 minutes to manually break up any clumps of feathers. Drying can take a couple of hours.
  6. Air-dry (optional). If you do not have an automatic dryer, spread the comforter over a drying rack. Place it in a warm room and add a circulating fan to speed drying. Fluff the comforter often to break up clumps and turn it frequently for even drying.

Tips for Keeping Your Comforter Clean for Longer

  • Use a removable, washable cover on your comforter and wash it regularly.
  • Always use a top sheet, which serves as a barrier between you and your comforter. A sheet is much easier and quicker to wash than a comforter.
  • Flip the comforter often to allow trapped moisture in the filling to thoroughly dry after each use.
  • Freshen the comforter between washings by hanging it on an outside clothesline on a breezy, sunny day.
  • Place the comforter in an automatic dryer on air-only between washings to remove dust and crumbs.
  • Use a fabric refresher spray between washes to help remove odors. Spray the comforter on both sides.
  • Blot spills and stains immediately to prevent them from seeping into the comforter filling.
  • Keep pets off the bed.
  • Avoid eating or drinking in bed.

Read Next: Should You Wash New Sheets (or Clothes) Before Using Them? We Asked an Expert

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